This story occurred a couple of years ago, but the described scenario and underlying problem is as timeless as ever. During my evening shift as marine mammal surveyor on board of a ferry on route to Santander in Spain, I was forced to witness a small group of lost racing pigeons loosing their fight against the strong winds of the Bay of Biscay. I had to watch the drama unfolding, and there was nothing I could do to help. In this respect, spring and autumn surveys are known to be particularly emotionally demanding, as surveyors are regularly forced to helplessly watch the struggle of travelling and migrating birds. This situation is neither unexpected nor unique, but can be emotionally draining. At the very least, it feels very surreal when witnessing tragedies like this one on board of a luxurious ferry, where most people are busy enjoying their lives and holidays. Most of these tragic encounters go unnoticed and are missed even by keen birders and whale and dolphin enthusiasts armed with expensive gear.
Let me get straight to the point – wildlife management using lethal methods such as culling or killing is not just unethical and unnecessary, it is scientifically proven to be inefficient in almost all cases, in particular long-term. However, despite this common knowledge, governments, farmers, hunters, gamekeepers, pest controllers and many conservationists will almost exclusively suggest lethal methods of wildlife control as the most effective solution in wildlife conservation, wildlife management and to address any wildlife related problem. Scientific evidence suggesting the opposite will be commonly ignored, wrongly interpreted, or used out of context. There are many known factors, which influence public opinion and behaviour, but also common and widely accepted management practices. First we will highlight some of the more common problems and misperceptions, as this kind of background information may prove useful for the general understanding, before we will explore examples of lethal wildlife management and their consequences.
“Veganism is not just a diet or lifestyle. It is a basic prerequisite for anyone who wishes to start caring seriously about animals, including humans. It is a moral and political commitment to nonviolence.” – Ken Hopes
Let us begin with what a vegan-run corvid sanctuary does not mean. It does not mean that we raise wild birds on a vegan diet. To rescue, rehabilitate and ultimately release wild birds back into their natural home environment, these animals need to be raised or fed on a diet, which resembles their natural diet as closely as possible, otherwise these animals would not stand a chance to survive in the wild. Our rehabilitation programme is based around BVZS “Good Practice Guidelines for Wildlife Rehabilitation Centres” and tailored around the individual needs of the animal concerned, which does not only include their diet, but also an appropriate hospital, rehabilitation and release aviary setup.
Being sentient means to have the capacity to have positive and negative experiences, such as feeling pain and pleasure. This applies at the very least to all animals with centralised nervous systems. Sentient beings have their very own unique personalities. We should refer to them as “he/she”, “them/they” or by species. The words “it” or “thing” should not be used to refer to an animal, and “who” is used rather than “that”. If you do not know the gender, then choose one: “he” or “she”. Even if your gender choice is wrong, it is more respectful than “it”. This is an important way of demonstrating the respect we ask others to afford all animals.